The Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar (Malankara Mar Thoma Suriyani Sabha) is the reformed section of the ancient St. Thomas Church of India traditionally believed to be established by St. Thomas, an Apostle of Jesus Christ. The Apostle came to India in AD 52 & established seven churches at Malabar Coast (Kerala).
[ AD 52 ]
St. Thomas established churches in Kerala. Till the 4th century, early stages of Mar Thoma Christians were known as Nasranis.
[ AD 345 ]
400 families from East Syrian migrated to Kerala. They mixed with local Christians and absorbed their culture. During 6th century Persian influence began to make great impact through Nestorian church missionary movement. Nestrorian's Liturgy on Aramic prevailed till 15th century among St. Thomas (Mar Thoma) Christians.
[ AD 1498 ]
Arrival of Roman Catholic missionaries alongwith Vasco-de-Gama, who worked among St. Thomas Syrian Christians to Latinize the church.
[ AD 1599 ]
Udayamperoor Sunnahados where St.Thomas Christians were asked to renounce Nestorianism and embrace Latin version of Catholicism. A small minority withdrew from signing and followed Nestorianism to continue as the Church of East and others followed Roam Catholics.
[ AD 1653 ]
The oath at the Cross in Mattanchery (Coonen Kurishu)- revolt against Roman Catholic under the leadership of Archdeacon Thomas, who was later made Bishop with the title Mar Thoma-I, by his supporters.
[ AD 1665 ]
Mar Thoma-I seeks support of sister churches in Antioch, Babylon, Jerusalem, Alexandria and Ethiopia. In response Mar Gregoriose arrives from Jerusalem. He belongs to the Antiochean church known as Jacobite(followers of Jacob Bardaeus, a monk from Syria). The independent church of Mar Thoma was brought under influence of the Antiochian Jacobite Church.
[ AD 1811 ]
Bible translated to Malayalam
[ AD 1813 ]
Seminary established. Abraham Malpan questions some of the practices.
[ AD 1836 ]
Mavelikkara Synod refuses any reformation in the church. Palamkunnath Abraham Malpan, and Kaithayil Geevarghese Malpan were lead reformation in Church. Depute Deacon Mathew to Antioch for writ petition. Antioch Patriarch consecrated Mathew as Bishop with title, Mar Athanasios. Mathews Mar Athanasios is considered as 13thMarthoma and continued reformation in the Syrian Church until his death in 1877.
[ AD 1842 ]
Returns to Kerala and assumes responsibility as Metropolitan of Malankara Church, continues reformation and declares independence & autonomy and restores the ancient faith and name MAR THOMA SYRIAN CHURCH. The Mar Thoma Syrian Church, initiated worship in the language of the people (liturgy was translated from Syriac into Malayalam and used in the churches in Maramon, Kottayam (Pallam) Kolladu and Kunnamkulam). They continued following prayers & practice. a) Meditation through saints. b) Prayer & adoration to Virgin Mary. c) Prayers for the dead. d) Auricular confession was discontinued in the church. e) Holy elements in the Qurbana were served in both kinds. f) Qurbana was not celebrated when there were none to communicate.
[ AD 1889 ]
Royal Court Judgment - The Reformation and Seminary case (1879-1889) caused much friction in the Malankara Church. Following the Royal Court Judgement (1889) the Malankara Church too was divided into two sections viz: Jacobite Church and Mar Thoma Church. For the Mar Thomas Church, the loss of material things, after Royal Court Judgement, was compensated by the spiritual revival and the zeal for spreading the Gospel. 1888 - Formation of the Mar Thoma Evangelistic Association 1896 - The Maramon Convention started 1906 - The Mar Thoma Sunday School Samajam was founded 1919 - The Mar Thoma Suvisesha Sevika Sangham was stated 1924 - The Mar Thoma Voluntary Evangelistic Association was started. The Mar Thoma Yuvajana Sakhyam was founded.
[ Metropolitans from the time of Reformation ]
13th Mar Thoma : Most Rt. Rev. Mathews Mar Athansius (1843 - 1877) 14th Mar Thoma : Most. Rt. Rev. Thomas Mar Athnansius (1877 - 1893) 15th Mar Thoma : Most Rt. Rev. Titus I Mar Thoma (1893 - 1910) 16th Mar Thoma : Most Rt. Rev. Titus II Mar Thoma (1910 - 1943) 17th Mar Thoma: Most Rt. Rev. Dr. Abraham Mar Thoma (1943 - 1947) 18th Mar Thoma: Most Rt. Rev. Dr. Juhanon Mar Thoma (1947 - 1976) 19th Mar Thoma: Most Rt. Rev. Dr. Alexander Mar Thoma (1976 - 2000) 20th Mar Thoma: Most Rt. Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar Thoma (2000 - Retired in 2007) 21st Mar Thoma: Most Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma (2007 onwards)
[ Administration ]
The Mar Thoma Church has a well-defined constitution, the first four parts of which lay down explicitly its basic teachings. Belief in the Trinity, Salvation through Jesus Christ, the Bible as the foundation for all theological teachings, Nicene Creed, Sacraments of Holy Baptism & Holy communion, the exhortation to preach the Word of God everywhere in the world, the declaration that the Mar Thoma Church is part of the One Catholic and Apostolic Church, the orders of priests and Bishops-these are the basic concepts which form the backdrop of its constitution. From the point of Administration the Church has three levels viz. Central administrative setup embracing the entire Church, Dioceses, Parishes.
[ Central administrative setup ]
The central administrative set up consists of the Metropolitan, the Episcopal Synod, the Prathinithi Mandalam (Legislative Assembly) and the Sabha Council (Executive body of the Mandalam).
[ Metropolitan ]
His Grace the Metropolitan is the supremo of the Church and the other Bishops are to assist him. With the assistance of the Episcopal Synod and the Sabha Council, he forms the Dioceses. The Bishops obtain their powers from the Metropolitan. He is the president of the Episcopal Synod, the Sabha Prathinidi Mandalam and the Sabha Council. He is also an ex-officio trustee of the Church.
[ Episcopal Synod ]
Consisting of all the Bishops of the Church, the Episcopal Synod helps the Metropolitan in general administration. The Synod approves the decisions of the Prathinidhi Mandalam and the Diocesan assemblies. Preparation & publishing of the liturgy is also done by the Synod, in addition to transfer and posting of clergy.
[ Prathinidhi Mandalam ]
This is the House of Representatives, the apex body of the Church, consisting of the Metropolitan, all other Bishops, Vicars General, representatives of clergy and parishes, representatives of the recognised Institutions of the Church, representatives of those who have become members of the Church as a result of the missionary work of the Church and persons nominated by the Metropolitan. 65% of the membership is from laity and 35% from among the clergy. The lay representatives are elected by parishes and other institutions. The clergy by the Mandalam. The decisions of the Mandalam are circulated in all parishes by the Metropolitan, with the approval of the Synod. Though generally the Mandalam meets once a year, in exigencies special Mandalam can be convened.
[ Sabha Council ]
Sabha Council is the Executive Committee of the Mandalam. The Metropolitan is the President of the Sabha Council, all Bishops, the Senior Vicar General, the Trustees and Secretary are ex-officio members of the Council. The other members are elected from Dioceses by the Mandalam Members for three years. The council has the power to implement the decisions of the Mandalam which are approved by the Synod and confirmed by the Metropolitan. The Sabha Council is also an advisory body to the Metropolitan.
[ The Sabha Office ]
Sabha Office, the Central Secretariat of the Church, functions directly under the control of the Sabha Secretary, who is the secretary of the Sabha Prathinidhi Mandalam and Sabha Council gives bureaucratic support to the executive bodies of the Church. It executes the decisions of the Synod, Prathinidhi Mandalam, Sabha Council, various committees etc, and coordinates with the Dioceses, Organizations and Parishes. The office liaisons with Government and Semi Government organizations as well as local bodies. The Sabha Secretary is the Chief Executive Officer of the Sabha Office, and he is responsible for implementation of all policy decisions, with the close co-operation of the Lay Trustee and the Clergy Trustee.